Shaun White Refocuses For Upcoming Winter Olympics

Shaun White Prepares For Upcomming Winter Olympics
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Shaun White, Prepares For Winter Olympics

The 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang will pose many challenges to snowboarders from all across the globe. Competitors will be tested at two different venues: the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre and the Bokwang Snow Park, starting February 10th. One athlete looking to rebound from a turbulent outing at the 2014 Winter Olympics? America’s own, Shaun White.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist wants nothing more than to forget about what happened in Sochi four years ago. White disappointed, merely earning a fourth-place finish at the games. Since then, he has refocused himself on his training regimen. He is confident he can regain the form that helped him become the most recognizable boarder in America.

A lot went wrong for the 30-year-old in Sochi. Whether it was a minor thing, like not eating his usual steak dinner before competition or a big inconvenience, such as poor riding conditions, White could never find his groove. After his sub-par performance at the last games, White even saw a lot of sponsorship opportunities fall by the wayside.

So, what will “The Flying Tomato” do differently in PyeongChang? First of all, White has brought in a new coach – JJ Thomas, who took home a bronze medal in the 2002 games. He is seeking to improve his physical fitness as well, working with Esther Lee, who previously trained Serena Williams. The new coaches have helped White maximize his time and efficiency as he gears up for the games. White knows he needs to be in peek physical condition when he competes in a few months. Right now, he is slated to participate in the halfpipe competition against Ayumu Hirano, Scotty James, Iouri Podladtchikov, and fellow Americans, Danny Davis and Chase Josey.

In only a few months, the world will find out if the adjustments have paid off for White. Can he channel the drive and focus that made him a gold medalist in 2006 and 2010? White certainly hopes so, and with his new training regimen, he seems poised to dominate the sport once again. 

Stanley Cup Playoffs Lacking Excitement Thus Far

NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs
NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs

After one week of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, one word comes to mind for hockey fans: ease. While the Canadiens and Rangers go toe-to-toe each night, the rest of the league has not followed suit. The first round of the postseason is generally the most balanced in the NHL. This has definitely not been the case so far in the 2016-17 season as it appears only three series will head to a sixth game.

Dating back to 2014, the league has seen seven series pushed to the brink, in the first round alone. Will we see any this season? It doesn’t seem likely as only a few series have been somewhat competitive. Toronto and Washington are tied at two games apiece, while Edmonton took a 3-2 lead over San Jose last night. When the NHL re-formatted its postseason, it did not anticipate this many submissive matchups.

So, what has happened so far? Easily, the most surprising upset came in the west as perennial contender, the Chicago Blackhawks, fell in four straight games to Nashville. The Blackhawks finished atop the tough Western Conference with 109 points, while the Predators barely snuck into postseason play. The three-time Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks, couldn’t even muster up a fight; getting outscored 13-3 in the four-game sweep. The Hawks were not alone, as the Calgary Flames suffered the same fate against the Anaheim Ducks, failing to win a single game.

For several seasons, the West has been the more dominant conference (they have claimed four of the past five cups). This postseason has exposed many of their supposed top teams as pretenders, not contenders. The Minnesota Wild, who finished second in the conference standings, seemed destined to be swept as well. They barely staved off elimination, heading into a fifth game against the Blues on Saturday

Stanley Cup Lacks Excitement So Far
NHL Playoffs

Over in the Eastern Conference, the story remains the same. The Pittsburgh Penguins made quick work of the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that recorded the second longest win streak in league history this season. Although most of the games in this series were competitive, the Blue Jackets’ struggles in net were exposed by a potent Pittsburgh offense.

The Boston Bruins caught fire midway through the season when a coaching change was made. But, their postseason experience could be coming to a quick end tonight. The Ottawa Senators look to close out this series in five games. The Sens came into the playoffs with low expectations, due to nagging injuries to their best player, Erik Karlsson. Instead, this series has mirrored most of the other first round matchups: one-sided.

At this point, hockey fans can only hope the competitive play returns in round two. What separates the NHL from other sports is its balanced matchups in the postseason. While the NFL and NBA lack parity in the playoffs, the NHL has become famous for it. With a few more matchups like these, perhaps it’s time for the league to re-evaluate its playoff format in hopes of returning to the ultra-competitive series that fans have grown accustomed to. 

Can Canada Break Its Stanley Cup Curse?

Canadian Flag
The NHL Stanley Cup Curse

While snowboarding season may be winding down, the NHL’s current campaign is just warming up. The Stanley Cup Playoffs began last evening, with three more series getting underway tonight. Perhaps the most intriguing matchup pits the Washington Capitals against the upstart, Toronto Maple Leafs. Led by rookie phenom, Auston Matthews, the Leafs are viewed as the next great hope for our neighbors up north. Will 2017 finally be the year the Stanley Cup makes its way back to Canada?

The country’s beloved sport has seen a dry spell in championships, recently.  The last time a Canadian team hoisted a Stanley Cup was way back in 1993 (Montreal Canadiens). Since then, the country has seen five of its teams fall just short in the Stanley Cup Final; Vancouver being the last team to claim second place in 2011.

This is a relatively new phenomenon for the northerners that once dominated the NHL landscape. Before Montreal claimed the cup in the early-90s, Canada won seven straight championships from 1984-1990 (thank you, Wayne Gretzky). The country has only come close a few times since, with Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary all sending the final series to a seventh game, before falling just short.

This season has seen a revival for Canadian teams across the Eastern and Western Conferences. Five of the country’s seven teams have qualified for the postseason. This comes just one year after the nation was completely shut out of the playoffs altogether. Now, the Leafs, Canadiens, Flames, Ottawa Senators, and Edmonton Oilers all have a shot at hockey’s ultimate prize. So, which team represents the best chance at bringing the cup back to the sport’s motherland

While the Leafs look to be contenders for years to come, it may be too soon for their young nucleus, including Matthews and other emerging superstars, William Nylander and Mitch Marner. Same goes for the Calgary Flames, led by a youth invasion including, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Ottawa may struggle in their first-round matchup against a tough Bruins squad, especially with a hampered Erik Karlsson. An entire country may rest its hopes on two teams: Edmonton and Montreal.

The Oilers possess the most explosive player in the game, in Connor McDavid. This year’s Art Ross Trophy winner definitely has his work cut out for him in the quarterfinals. Edmonton was victim of a rough draw, matching up with 2016’s Stanley Cup runner up, the San Jose Sharks. After dropping game one in overtime, will the Oilers respond with a win, or will inexperience shine through when the going gets tough?

Montreal won the Atlantic Division, once again riding the strong play of netminder, Carey Price. Price and company have come close to Lord Stanley before, and many pundits believe this is their year to win it all. But, will facing a high-flying Rangers squad knock the Canadiens out of the postseason prematurely, once again? The team that began the 2016-17 season at a scorching, 9-1 pace, has since cooled off considerably. A game one loss to the blue shirts must have a nation wondering if their top team will let them down again.

Canadian NHL Hockey Puck
Canadian NHL Hockey Puck

Nonetheless, this season has definitely been a bright spot for the folks above the border. Vancouver and Winnipeg were the only Canadian teams to not qualify for the playoffs, already making this year a success for the country.  But, the question remains, can hockey’s homeland end its curse and claim a Cup in 2017? With stars like Matthews, McDavid, and Price on their side, Canada may not have to wait much longer to claim its first championship in nearly 25 years.

Sandboarding: Snowboarding In the Summer

A Man Sandboarding In The DesertScottDW- YouTube

The life of a snowboarder can be a difficult one during the spring and summer months. Boarders may try out activities like skateboarding and roller blading, but there really is nothing like shredding down a mountain. Surfing may be the best training technique in warmer weather, but ocean waves routinely disappoint the ultimate thrill-seekers.

Boarders may be counting down the days until snow falls again, waiting to get back on that mountain. Until one day, you are driving through the desert and you see someone riding a board down a huge sand dune. What is this new sport, you ask? Well, in fact, it’s not new at all. Sandboarding is currently sweeping the globe and could be the best summer activity for winter sport enthusiasts.

Nope, we don’t mean snowboarding! We mean sandboarding.

Sandboarding is an extreme sport and as the name suggests – you’ll be sliding down the sand, literally. The sport is gaining popularity in desert and coastal areas. Using a waxed board, participants are able to fly down these dunes. Sandboarding is very similar to all the other “boarding” sports like skateboarding and snowboarding, using practically all the same movements. And, there is good news for deprived snowboarders. On occasion, a snowboard will work on these dunes. At last, there can actually be snowboarding in the summer!

It’s unclear where this sport began, as many countries claim to be the first to try it, but it’s now trending all across the globe. Also, because of the location of these events (deep in the desert), this sport could have been created decades ago with little stir surrounding it. Regardless of the origins, sandboarding appears to be here to stay.

A Fun Group Of Friends Traveling To Go Sandboarding
Sandboarding In Australia

In places like Egypt, Australia, Germany, Peru, Chili and even Japan, there are plenty of competitions and professional sandboarding athletes. In just the next three months, the sandboarding calendar is packed. International sandboard day is followed by a sand master jam this coming July. Even companies like Red Bull and Burton are sponsoring these events. With financial support, who knows how big this sport can truly become.

The best places to try this out would be anywhere you can find sand dunes really. If you test it out a little bit, and decide you might want to take it a step further, you can try to hang with the big dogs in Egypt or South America. Namibia has even added something extra on to sandboarding, as they now feature sand-skiing for other athletes.

In America, the sport really took flight in Oregon, where the first sandboard park was created. Alamosa, Colorado is home to some of the tallest dunes in the country, making it a popular destination for sandboarders. Thousands of Americans get introduced to this sport every year, and many are likely snowboarders looking for a thrill.

So, quit praying for snow and get yourself ready for the sandboard world cup. At the very least, sandboarding can help clench snowboarders’ thirst for adventure and adrenaline in the summer time.